Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research is a highly debated issue in health, religious, and political news, almost on a daily basis. Some individuals are in favor of harvesting stem cell material from embryos. Many others, especially Christians and those individuals who are pro-life on the abortion issue, find harvesting to be terribly wrong. With the study of this genetic material, much like abortion, there must be a determination of when the life of the child starts. Should a child be considered a human life at conception or birth? This is a tough choice for many, but anyone can plainly see that conception is the point at which the child becomes human, making it clear there is a lack of ethics involved in this process. In order to deeper understand this process; individuals must review the history of both adult and embryonic research.
Most research, especially in the early years, has been performed on animals, including mice and sheep. The history of stem cell research is fairly short lived. The presence of the human stem cell has only been known for 30 years or so. Adult cells were discovered, but were only considered to be able to grow or produce a specific type of tissue. More recently, this material in many parts of the body has been shown to possess the ability to change into various types of cells, especially those that are needed in the heart, nerves, and muscles. Research in adults has taken place in many instances and has shown to make progress in the treatment of a variety of diseases. Extracting this from adults can be done with no loss of life for the individual involved. The only major concern is that these can be difficult to locate and retain their value outside the human body.
The use of embryos in studies has been a topic of debate and discussion since the late 1990s when the studies first began. Embryonic stem cell research involves the use of embryos that are left over from individuals that have used in vitro fertilization to have children. Many couples have several embryos remaining after they have had children. They can choose to discard the remaining material, provide them for research, or donate them to another couple to use for conception. Often, couples do not want to provide them to other couples because they will genetically be the parents of the conceived child or children. Also, discarding is difficult for individuals because this seems extreme. Donating the embryos for stem cell studies has become an option that many people are willing to choose. This research, however, is much like the idea of abortion. It is the process of taking a life, in the form of an embryo, for research with hope of creating a cure to some diseases. Very little success has been made from research conducted on embryonic material, making the process difficult to justify. Unlike studies with adult genetic material, there is loss of life because the embryo, which could have easily become a child, is sacrificed in order to attempt to find a way to cure diseases. For other similar topics, check out these Bible resources.
There is a major concern over the ethical issues surrounding this topic. The question of the ethics of these studies weighs heavily on the mind of individuals, especially Christians. Much like the debate over abortion, it is necessary to determine the point at which a fetus should be considered a living being. With the justification of abortion, many individuals have decided that birth is the point of life. If that is the case, there seems to be nothing wrong with this research or abortion. However, anyone can see that with embryonic studies, these embryos were created as a chance for the couple to have a child. If they are discarding or donating the embryos stem cell for use, they have probably already conceived at least one child, if not multiple children. Those embryos that are being used to find information and possibly cure or treatments for diseases were developed so children could be born. They were not created to die or be destroyed, but to live.
Christians must stand up against this type of study because it is wrong. It allows one life to be taken in the hopes that others may be saved because the life of a human begins at conception. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). The study of this matter is a very hot topic in many circles, especially where political or religious leaders are concerned. The use of stem cell studies has been shown to be affective in the treatment of some diseases. But, at what cost should these studies continue? The use of adult material has been just as effective, if not more so, than the use of embryonic material. Stem cell research can be done successfully with adult cells with absolutely no loss of life. Locating this genetic material is more difficult, but has been proven to be successful. Using embryonic cells guarantees the destruction of the embryo. There have been few, if any, proven cases where the use of studies with embryonic material has made any progress. The basic point of debate in this case is the discussion of the point where life begins. Much like the abortion debate, the debate over stem cell research has created rifts in political and religious organizations.
Cultural IssuesCultural issues are something that every Christian in every country will have to face at one time or another as they live in the ungodly societies that permeate the world today. Heritage and history that are founded on principles other than the Bible are wrought with ideals and traditions that are far from the commandments of God. Christians are called to live in the world, but not be of the world, meaning that they are to penetrate the darkness with their light, but not let the darkness dim their brightness or extinguish the flame altogether. From the beginning of the creation of a holy race, God's people have struggled with overcoming bad influence and not participating in the practices of the world around them. There are plenty of examples of failures listed throughout the Bible and when we struggle with the issues that our world today deems acceptable, we can use the Bible to teach us about the consequences of flirting with the world. We find, time and again, that we are not nearly so strong as we think and that succumbing to peer pressures, bad influences, worldly successes, and selfish ambitions always leads us away from God instead of closer to Him.
The truth is that many of the hot topics that are debated today are not specifically addressed in the Bible. But godly principles and God's desires for His people are made perfectly clear in the Word of God and we can take these principles and desires and apply them in any circumstance we face today. This includes the much debated cultural issues of tattoos, body piercings, materialism, and the new wave of Christian rock music. Digging deep into the Word is exactly what the Lord desires of us, so in this sense the debating and seeking has had somewhat of a positive result if indeed those who consider such search the Word of God before partaking. First and foremost, Christians must remember that their allegiance is to God and their purpose in life is to bring Him glory. One must ask oneself if everything they do, say, or even think brings glory to God. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Colossians 3:17). Secondly, one must ask oneself why he or she is making a decision to participate in an activity or cultural trend that is the subject of much debate. God is the One who judges the heart and not just the action, so any actions made from half-baked decisions or attempts to fit into a culture are not acceptable. To find out about other issues and what the Bible has to say about each, visit our Bible resources.
One of the greatest Christian arguments for taking part in traditions or activities that are considered by the majority as non-Christian activities is the argument of fitting in to a social group for the purpose of reaching the lost. While this may be a perfectly good argument if a missionary in Africa is observing cultural dress in order to not offend the host people group, it is doubtful that any missionary would honor this practice if the cultural dress meant to, well, undress. We can certainly demonstrate our respect without compromising our values. And, it will be wise to remember that God never once needed any of His children to compromise holy commands in order to win a soul for the Lord. The Bible teaches that it is the Holy Spirit that draws people to the Lord, and that man is privileged to take part in the process of spreading the gospel. God would never draw the soul of one person to Himself at the risk of harming another. We must keep God in God's place of sovereignty when making excuses for compromising our values.
The Word of God tells us that God chose a people to call His own and that He severed these people from other nations. At this point, God gave the chosen race an entire new set of rules to live by so that these people would demonstrate to the world the awesome acts of a Holy God. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine" (Leviticus 20:26). We are set apart from the world, not joined with it. This is by no means a fact to be arrogant about, but one of humility and respect, as we leave the things of the world behind and follow, faithfully in humble submission, after our God. Cultural issues become not so much about rules, but about demonstrating the love of God and also the respect of God in everything we do.
The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That everything God created was good at the completion of that creative genius. Perhaps we can take this principle to heart in when considering our bodies, which we are also told are now the very temple in which a holy God dwells. We can bear this truth in mind in everything that we expose ourselves to as well, including entertainment, be it under the secular or Christian banner. Remember, if an activity or action does not bring the Lord glory, it does not need to be considered. To learn what the Bible says about the hot topics of cultural issues today, take the quiz linked above.